Category Archives: Philosophy

Choice Animals

In the 2015 film, The Lobster, single people have 45 days to find a partner with at least one key trait in common with them (could be anything, love of the outdoors, matching catsuits, a hangnail), or be turned into the animal of their choice.

(Alternatively, they can reject romantic love altogether and, if they can manage the harrowing escape from society, live in the wilderness amongst a motley crew of single people known as The Loners. But that’s where the plot meanders about and becomes dry and rather unengaging.)

But still. A neat premise, that: the literal dehumanization of people who do not conform to heteronormative standards of coupledom, if not outright love. It is ostensibly a punishment for being single…though as a reward for not being in a relationship, there are worse things out there certainly.

Imagine it. Any animal. You choose.

The animal of choice for the protagonist, David, is the lobster: they are long-lived and anyway he’s always loved the sea. His brother chooses to be a dog. One woman chooses to be pony. Yet another hopeless person decides to be a wolf.

For me, it would be a hard decision.

But I think I’ve narrowed down the list:

1. A Cat.

So I can judge you.

2. A Galapagos Tortoise.

So I can be alone with my thoughts for 100 years.

3. A Bumblebee.

Hive mind, hive mind! Hivemindhivemindhivemind!!!

4. A Giant Squid.

Ten big arms so I can terrorize all the seamen.

5. A Pangolin.

So hot right now.

6. A Black Rain Frog.

My inner self turned out and made fabulous.

7. A Spotted Hyena.

Such a gorgeous laugh it’s crime not to have it.

8. A Dung Beetle.

Because why not a dung beetle?

9. A Caiman.

Like, an alligator, but not so much.

10. A Moth.

OK, for real. I want to be The Mothman.

***

I suppose….

I suppose deciding on your choice animal is, actually, a lot like deciding to commit to a relationship. Everyone has their reasons, their likes and dislikes and preferences for the long term, or at least for the foreseeable future.

Whatever those are, and whatever that is.

***

BONUS ROUND:

11. A Pelican.

I would really enjoy that beak.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Change, Movies, Philosophy, Relationships

The Loving Huntsman

A minor triumph recently: I finally secured a nice copy (an excellent edition) of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes; or The Loving Huntsman.

It’s taken about a year to achieve this. Over a year, actually, plus a month or two.

I was, and remain, committed.

***

Lolly Willowes is a story of struggle, privilege, humiliation and personal retribution (which looks very much like vengeance, though it is not). There is a cool intelligence in the writing, a wry and discerning mind behind the prose. A rarity, even now. Even today. Possibly always.

***

Lolly Willowes (or The Loving Huntsman) also has the best narrative portrait of the Devil I’ve ever come across:

 

To be this – a character truly integral, a perpetual flowing of power and cunning from an undivided will – was enough to constitute the charm and majesty of the Devil. No cloak of terrors was necessary to enlarge that stature, and to suppose him capable of speculation or metaphysic would be like offering to crown hi with a few casual straws. Very probably he was quite stupid. When she had asked him about death he had got up and gone away, which looked as if he did not know much more about it then she did herself: indeed, being immortal, it was unlikely that he would know as much. Instead, his mind brooded immovably over the landscape and over the natures of men, an unforgetting and unchoosing mind. That, of course – and she jumped up in her excitement and began to wave her arms – was why he was the Devil, the enemy of souls. His memory was too long, too retentive; there was no appeasing its witness, no hoodwinking it with the present; and that was why at one stage of civilization people said he was the embodiment of all evil, and then a little later on that he didn’t exist (1999: 220-221).

 

Forgive and forget. Who doesn’t need that, once in a while?

Who doesn’t crave it, the reprieve of disremembering just the right thing, at just the right moment, so that everything (present, future and past) will be alright. Will just turn out that way?

Pick and choose, overlook. Exonerate.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Speaking especially of the Devil himself.

 

________________________________________________

Warner, Sylvia Townsend. (1999). Lolly Willowes or The Loving Huntsmen. NYRB: New York.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Language, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Words

Beat It

A year taken month by month, a month taken day by day, and days taken by the hour. Break that down into minutes, seconds…

I’m told (I’ve been told) that’s the secret to getting by. I’ve tried it.

And so:

Yesterday now is tomorrow; September was five minutes; it’s already Christmas. I was never a child; dinosaurs roam the earth!

Beat-by-beat-by-beat.

10 seconds or a year, it doesn’t matter. Does it?

Just got to get through, and on to the next thing.

Whenever that is.

Like it matters.

 

 

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Filed under Change, Philosophy, Time, Travel

Conversations About Dogs With Near Strangers

I had met Shari before, at a seminar, but we did not speak to each other, the class getting much in the way of that.

On our second meeting, waiting in the dim little hallway for the class to begin, we talked about dogs.

Hers is 8 years old, a bulldog/boxer mix with an attitude problem that she’s tried to work with him to, if not remedy (he’s too far gone for that), mitigate. I told her about Lou, our 14 year old dachshund, and even got into the specifics of his many issues and countless idiosyncrasies, and all the things we’ve done to help him along with those.

Strangers can talk to each other about their dogs for days; dogs being a “safe” topic for discussion with people you don’t really know all that well – a way to talk about yourself without having to talk about yourself.

Dogs help us open up.

A confession, then, from Shari: “I know this sounds weird, but I’m already thinking of the day I’ll have to put my dog down. I shouldn’t be, he’s old but not that old. But I can’t seem to help it.”

“I think about that too,” I replied. “It’s not so weird.”

“Well, when I have to, I’ll have to. You know?”

Dogs teach us about responsibly (to think about it, to take it seriously). They help us with our empathy. And they teach us about mortality: the impermanence of things, and what (if anything) we can do about it.

Another confession from Shari: “I’m worried about how my newborn son will get along with my dog. But we’ll just have to figure something out. I am not getting rid of the dog.”

Ah, yes. Of course.

Dogs help us prioritize.

 

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Filed under Animals, Death, Dogs, Mind and Body, People, Philosophy

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Open Secrets, Vol. 8

– Cheese it (every time)!

– Actually, that is exactly who you care.

– Hot Take vs. Cold Open.

– Just bury it in the news cycle.

– The lesser of two evils is only the devil you know.

Kill it with: kindness, love, fire.

– Bad News vs. The Worst News.

– Few or not many makes little difference.

Hard times: ahead, behind us, now.

– Found Objects vs. Lost Causes.

– Butter makes it better; extra butter makes it extra butter.

– Mild Ambitions vs. Wild Aspirations.

– Your kids; my dog.

– Miserable Truths vs. Beautiful Lies.

Better to be: interesting(?), loved(?), present(?).

– Leader but not boss.

– Nice vs. Nice Enough.

– Skin deep is still just a little bit deep.

– Eat your cake, and have it too.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Children, Food, People, Philosophy

Open Secrets, Vol. 6

– Fallow’s not all bad.

– No contest.

– Hell vs. Fresh Hell.

– It’s, like, a metaphor.

– Try counterclockwise first.

Fancy: extra, too, that.

– Glee is hard.

– Tough vs. Tough Enough.

– Guilt gawks.

THE WRIT HAS DROPPED.

Waterfalls: Niagara, Kentucky, don’t go chasing.

– Greatly Offended vs. Offended Greatly.

– Fate is what happened after the fact.

– Interchangeable is often just easier.

– Balding sometimes worse than bald.

– No, contest.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Interruptions, Philosophy, Ritual, Words

Open Secrets, Vol. 5

WHAT HYPE??

– Lazier but not easier.

Fashionable: policies, research, buildings, women, hats & shoes.

– Ghost away!

– The silent treatment is the lowest high road you can take.

– “The story of [FILL IN BLANK] is an ancient one.”

– Not worse can be a lot.

– It wasn’t Yoko.

– What the Fuck? vs. What the Actual Fuck?

NOW vs. NOW-ish

– The road (more or) less travelled.

Unfashionable: policies, research, buildings, women, hats & shoes.

– Your face.

– Sorry (not sorry).

TREAD CAREFULLY. 

– Too much infinity.

– You did not wake up like that.

– Later means now.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Celebrity, Fashion, People, Philosophy, Words

Open Secrets, Vol. 4

– It’s always showing a little.

– Common Sense vs Exceptional Nonsense.

– Nobody sees you there.

– Everyone lies here.

– Anyone can take it back.

– The chicken was the egg became the chicken.

– What is even ironic love?

– No further questions re: your baby.

– You don’t have to be the hero or the asshole.

Good: bosses, days, deaths.

– Ears are the eyes of hearing.

– No.

– Arms are not the opposite of legs.

Bad: luck, hair days, news bears.

– You is them when they want it to be.

– Sometimes the ass is the logical conclusion of the head.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Body, Interruptions, Philosophy, Words

Open Secrets, Vol. 3

– Big heavens, small miracles.

– Sometimes it’s not hard to forget.

– Suggestion: “Tuesday Tacos.”
Also: Thursdays. And: Today.

– Meaninglessness can mean anything.

Noble Truths: TBA.

– Alternate worlds vs. Alternative realities.

– Without gusto is fine too.

– Good intentions, bad results.

Absolute Truths: BRB.

– It’s hard not to care, except when it isn’t.

– (Just tuck it in already.)

– There’s moonlight. And then there’s serious moonlight.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE BOX.

– Double negatives are often not not easy to not undo. UNLESS.

– Everyone is from the past, at some point or the other (or another).

– Watch those caveats!

Half-Truths: LOLZ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Interruptions, Philosophy